Episode #803: Upsetting the Balance
First Broadcast: 7/30/18
Repeated: 9/3/18; 12/17/18
What am I freaking out about this week? First, I got rattled by an article on CounterPunch about the potential "methane deathtrap" being caused by the melting permafrost in the Arctic. Specifically:
...a gigantic CH4 burp (maybe 50 gigatons suddenly vs. only 5 gigatons now in the atmosphere) followed by a massive global self-reinforcing planetary heat stroke. ... Unquestionably, methane could be a significant disruption to commonly accepted democratic, and autocratic, but especially democratic lifestyles, as well as one of the least understood threats in all of history, a dreaded “Black Swan Event,” or, in essence, a virtual deathtrap.
That reminded me of an article I read some time ago about how a supervolcano eruption in Yellowstone National Park could be an extinction-level event. Or, in the words of USA Today, "Yellowstone supervolcano may blow sooner than thought — and could wipe out life on the planet," a claim which may have been exaggerated at the time. However, before I found that old article, I found a new article on aquafiers that contained this gem:
Of the planet’s 37 major aquifer systems, they discovered, 21 were on the verge of collapse. In the Great Plains, farmers had exhausted a third of Ogallala’s potable water in just 30 years. In California, the Central Valley aquifer was showing signs that it could drop beyond human reach by the middle of this century. But the worst declines were in Asia and the Middle East, where some of the planet’s oldest aquifers were already running out of water. “While we are so busy worrying about the water that we can see,” Famiglietti told me, “the water that we can’t see, the groundwater, is quietly disappearing.”
Of course, the thought of becoming a climate refugee drove me to search for what catastrophe could be worse than that, and the Internet did not disappoint when it brought me to an article on vacuum decay. What's that, you ask? Well, imagine that the Universe as we know it exists in a less-than-stable state that's almost, but not quite, a true vacuum, and then suddenly transitions to the more stable state of the actual true vacuum. What would happen? According to Cosmos Magazine, this:
The walls of the true vacuum bubble would expand in all directions at the speed of light. You wouldn’t see it coming. The walls can contain a huge amount of energy, so you might be incinerated as the bubble wall ploughed through you. Different vacuum states have different constants of nature, so the basic structure of matter might also be disastrously altered. But it could be even worse: in 1980, theoretical physicists Sidney Coleman and Frank De Luccia calculated for the first time that any bubble of true vacuum would immediately suffer total gravitational collapse.
They say: “This is disheartening. The possibility that we are living in a false vacuum has never been a cheering one to contemplate. Vacuum decay is the ultimate ecological catastrophe; in a new vacuum there are new constants of nature; after vacuum decay, not only is life as we know it impossible, so is chemistry as we know it.
“However, one could always draw stoic comfort from the possibility that perhaps in the course of time the new vacuum would sustain, if not life as we know it, at least some creatures capable of knowing joy. This possibility has now been eliminated.”
You can probably guess that after reading all this, I was a lot less concerned about the latest Michael Cohen-Donald Trump mishegas than I was before. Then again, Frasier might be returning to television, so that's something to look forward to, right? [Insert shrugging emoji here.]
So, what is Free New York anyway? The simple answer is that it's a
this neat little
public access TV show on
Manhattan Neighborhood Network which I co-produce with the
tremendous help of my camerawoman/editor/everything else,
Kim. The complicated answer
is that it's a project of mine to broadcast opinions and events which
don't always appear within "the mainstream media" (like The New York Times,
the major networks, local radio, etc.), and so far I think it's been working.
If you think I'm doing a good job--or not--and you feel
like sending me snail mail, the address is:
Free New York
P.O. Box 20945
Tompkins Square Station
New York, NY 10009
You can also email me at email@example.com, which should get to me a lot faster than the snail mail.
Check back later. I'm sure something will turn up.
Previous thoughts can be found here.
Jump Back to the Top!
last updated December 16, 2018
Comments? Send email to: firstname.lastname@example.org